In wake of D.C. collapse, are Richmond’s pedestrian bridges safe?

Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 3:59 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Last month, a pedestrian bridge in D.C. collapsed onto a highway after getting struck by a cement truck. Five people were sent to the hospital. Shortly after, inspection reports revealed a poor rating for the bridge, with replacing it as a possible option.

The scary accident prompted The On Your Side Investigators to look into pedestrian bridge safety in Richmond. State law only requires vehicular bridges to be inspected - not pedestrian bridges, walkways or overpasses.

A spokesperson from Richmond’s Department of Public Works said it maintains and inspects all city-owned pedestrian bridges, regardless, and recommends the same for privately owned ones.

The On Your Side Investigators requested the inspection reports for all of the city’s pedestrian bridges but were told the documents wouldn’t be released because of homeland security concerns. Officials did say the popular suspension bridge attached to Lee Bridge, and the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge were both last inspected in 2019, and are in good condition.

City officials said any pedestrian bridges that span above city streets are privately owned. Those owners are responsible for upkeep and safety. City officials said to their knowledge, there are no known safety issues with any pedestrian bridges in the city.

After the concrete truck smashed into the bridge in D.C., NBC affiliate WRC tracked down pictures from an inspection report taken just months before, showing crumbling concrete and exposed steel re-bar.

Several years earlier in South Florida, a pedestrian bridge collapsed in 2018, killing six people. The NTSB said design flaws led to the failure.

NBC12 reached out to the owners of multiple bridges above Richmond roads, including on VCU’s campus and the Greater Richmond Convention Center.

Of the entities that responded, the Convention Center’s general manager Mike Meyers said their maintenance staff conducts regular inspections and also has an outside consultant inspect every two years. The center has two bridges along Marshall Street. In addition, the center’s insurance company inspects annually, as well. Meyers said all the bridges under their control are structurally sound.

At VCU, a spokesperson said staff regularly monitors all of the university’s elevated walkways, the same as campus buildings. The Martin Agency says it has its bridge off Canal Street looked at every two years and makes repairs as necessary. The last inspection was completed last month.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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